Friday, July 27, 2012

The "Joy" of Cat Ownership

    When I got up this morning I was first greeted by a pile of cat throw up on the carpet.  After I cleaned that mess up I let Mr. Buttercup outside and failed to close the door.  A short time later he brought a live bird into the house.  I'm not sure what kind of bird it was. It looked like a young bird that wasn't yet able to fly, but it was pretty good sized. Possibly it was a young robin.  The cats were taking turns playing with it as it fluttered all through the hallway and living room. I finally managed to get the bird away from the cats and back outside.  I wasn't optimistic that it would survive. I just didn't want any more feathers strewn all over the house than we already had.
Mr. Buttercup's handiwork
    Later in the morning as I was preparing a garden bed, the cats were both trying to use the freshly raked soil as a litter box.   As I fed and watered the young ducks and chicken Mr. Buttercup was stalking them.  Obviously, he hadn't reached his full quota of small helpless creatures killed.
Tired cats relax after a hard day's mischief
     I pulled up the last of my onions yesterday.  It looked like they had transplanted well when I had initially moved them. Now it is obvious that it was too late. Very few of them made a useable sized bulb.  I weeded out the beds and replanted them with this morning with beets. I'm trying an open pollinated heirloom variety called "Bull's Blood".  We'll see how it turns out. I'd like to grow enough beets to do pickled beets and a few batches of borscht.

   Linda left this morning to drive to the Tri-Cities in order to attend the 50th wedding anniversary celebration of her aunt Ann and uncle Dave. That means I have no adult supervision over the weekend.  


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Picking Raspberries with the Bedlamites

    I went this morning with Beth and the little Bedlamites to pick raspberries at the Raising Cain upick raspberry farm.  It was a fun time and we left with four half flats or about 18 pounds of raspberries. The raspberries were huge and very tasty. At first the kids did most of their picking out of either Beth's or my box. I made several attempt to encourage them to pick their own berries. John acted very offended and flat told me no.  I later told Lucy to not be a lazy slug and pick her own berries. She then started to cry and told her mom "Grandpa called me a lazy slug!" It wasn't exactly my best moment as a grandpa. The kids mostly played between the rows, but at some point Lucy and Britton seemed to catch on and were actually adding berries to my flat. I think we can count ourselves lucky that they didn't weigh each of the kids before and after berry picking. I probably would have been on the hook for a few more pounds of raspberries.
Britton picking raspberries while John and Lucy play on the grass
    Beth would be my favorite daughter-in-law even if she wasn't my only daughter-in-law. I don't say that just because she likes to can, although that does score points with me. She even offered to make all of the raspberry jam.  The main thing I admire in her is how very patient and kind she is with her children.  The little Bedlamites certainly do their best to test her patience. That is probably one of my few regrets from the time when our own children were small. I wish I had been more patient and kindly. I feel that I owe a lot to Linda's influence and example in helping me to learn patience and to become a better father. I can only imagine how messed up my kids would have been without Linda's influence in my life.

Beautiful large raspberries

    They had some baby ducks in a pen and some loose ducks wandering around at the farm.  In a separate pen they had some chickens and a turkey.  John was really interested in the turkey until it bit him on the finger. I imagine that a little kid's finger looks way too much like the kind of little wiggly edibles that a free range turkey might find in the grass. Assuming turkeys are sentient beings (a big stretch of the imagination in my opinion) possibly the turkey thought as follows: "It moves and it will fit in my mouth, ergo it must be turkey food."

Monday, July 23, 2012

Double Yolker and Plum Wonderful

Normal egg on the left, double yolked egg on the right
   Britton's pet chicken Rose gave us a double yolked egg this morning. Rose is a Rhode Island Red and thus lays light brown eggs.  The other hen who is currently laying is a Dominique and lays dark brown eggs with little speckles. When our Ameracauna hens start to lay we will get green or blue eggs from them. Its kind of fun to know which eggs come from which chickens.
Shiro Plums almost ripe

Santa Rosa plum still hard and green

Obilnaya plums starting to change color
    Our raspberries are peaking and the plums are starting to ripen. The Shiro plums are just starting to turn yellow and the Obilnaya plums will be ripe soon after the Shiro plums.  The Santa Rosa plums will be several weeks behind the others. I love eating plums fresh but I don't much care for them canned. I'm thinking we will be making plum jam when we get more than we can eat fresh.

    I spent Monday morning weeding our blueberries and getting them back into good shape. After my sweet family had worked so hard earlier in the year to weed them out I couldn't stand to have them looking seedy again. It had rained during the night and most of the day was overcast.  The moist ground made the weeding easier and besides, the lawns didn't dry out enough for me to start mowing until mid afternoon.  I went over and visited the Tunnells in Monroe in the evening. The original purpose of my visit was to retrieve my orchard ladder.  I ended up staying for family home evening. It brought back memories of Linda and I struggling with family night when we had small children. Britton, Lucy, and John were all quite wiggly.  Beth gave a nice lesson on the importance of the Temple, we played a rousing game of "Duck Duck Goose", and had banana boats for treats. A good time was had by all.  It makes me happy to see my children being diligent in teaching their children the gospel. John is still my good buddy. He sat on my lap for a bit and had me read him one of his favorite books.

    On Tuesday morning I'm going with Beth and the little Bedlamites to pick raspberries at a friend's upick farm. Yet another wonderful bee store contact. I'd like to get enough raspberries to do at least a couple batches of jam.  Raspberry is my favorite jam and we are currently out. I've frozen some raspberries from our little patch but I haven't accumulated near enough to make as much raspberry jam as I would like to have.

Cabbage White Butterflies

    I have often been heard to make disparaging comments about the cute little Cabbage White butterflies(Pieris rapae). The reason I dislike them so is for the damage they do to vegetables in the cabbage family.  I was out looking at my broccoli the other day and noticed these holes in the leaves.  As I looked closer I noticed all of the little green caterpillars that were the causing the damage. This is the dark side of the pretty white butterflies.  As adults they simply look pretty as they go about sowing seeds of destruction, laying their eggs on my cabbages and broccoli.

    I looked them up in my copy of "Garden Insects of North America" and found a two page entry with lots of color photographs.  I learned that they are also known as the Imported Cabbageworm or the Cabbage Butterfly and that they are common throughout North America.  Under the category of Life History and Habits I found the following:

    "In the northern U.S. and Canada they spend the winter as a pupa among plant debris in the vicinity of previously infested plants. The adult butterflies become active in mid-spring, and the females lay yellow, bullet-shaped eggs on leaves. (The appearance of this insect in spring, coincident with when the cows would again begin to produce milk, is the source of the English term "butterfly.")"
Little green caterpillars  leaving big holes in the broccoli leaves

Notice how the caterpillar in the center of the photo is well camouflaged

    My organic solution to the problem of cabbage whites is to hand pick the caterpillars from the plants. Yes this is somewhat of a tedious chore, but I'd rather not poison the broccoli and risk poisoning my honeybees in order to get rid of the caterpillars.  Its not as difficult to pick the caterpillars off the broccoli, but it can be a serious chore with cabbage.  There are just a lot more crevices where the caterpillars can hide on the cabbages. I think an easier solution would be to issue butterfly nets to the grandkids and then put a bounty on little white butterflies.

Tasty treats for the chickens

   As noted in my previous post on chicken and dumplings, I don't like to waste meat, including insect protein.  Like any good recycler I took these caterpillars to a place where they could be recycled into something useful, namely chicken eggs.  I do the same thing with drone larvae from my bee hives. I sometimes do drone trapping as a way to monitor the level of varroa infestation in my beehives. This requires the removing capped drone brood to determine if there are a lot of varroa mites on the pupating drones.  After I'm done with this process, I simply throw the drone brood into the chicken pen. As a general rule, the hens seem to catch on a little quicker to the fact that I may be bringing a treat when I toss stuff into their pen.
Rose the chicken enthusiastically gobbles up the caterpillars

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Pioneer Day Celebration and Garden Report

    I worked in the bee store yesterday and then spent the rest of the day at the bee booth at our stake pioneer day celebration. I'm not sure what the connection is between Mormon pioneer day and honeybees other than the fact that Brigham Young was  quite taken with the honeybee as a symbol of thrift and industry. I had nothing to do with choosing that theme for a booth and was just there to be helpful. It still felt a little awkward as it couldn't help but promote my business. The fry bread booth next to us had no such conflicts. I'm not aware that anyone in the stake operates a fry bread business. We had a little observation hive and let people taste some of the different varieties of local honey.  The fry bread booth had Costco honey so it was easy for people to compare local raw honey to pasteurized generic honey.

   Linda came with James and Beth and their kids.  Lucy and Britton were both very cute in their little sun bonnets.  I wish I had thought to take some pictures. I know that John and I are still pretty tight as he trusted me to hold his root beer for a while. Their ward (Woods Creek) and our ward were both involved with the gold panning booth on the other side of the bee booth. Both the gold panning booth and the fry bread booth were extremely popular. It looked like the kids had a good time. I wish I could have spent more time with them.

    I had a very busy day earlier at the store.  I had planned to close a little early as the pioneer day activity started at 3:30 pm.  The store was so busy that the best I could manage was  closing 15 minutes early.  I had customers waiting in line until shortly before closing time.  I had one customer show up who is one of my trading partners.  He reminded me that he still owes me some produce from a package bee trade last year.  I put in an order for peaches and pickling cucumbers. I probably should have gotten tomatoes too, but I'm hesitant to take on too many canning projects at once.

   I've had a difficult time getting the cucumbers started in our garden as the slugs have wreaked such havoc on them. I had to get new starts and replant them several times. In spite of the  mass quantities of slugs I've fed to the ducks, there were still enough left to wipe out the cucumbers several times.  I've finally got it down to the point that I can only find a few slugs for the ducks when I do my morning slug patrol.  I guess the obvious solution is that I need more ducks next year. It would also be helpful if I could let them out of their pen to forage more often earlier in the year before the gardens are planted.  The big problem is that there are so many creatures that like to eat duck. Flightless ducks are even more vulnerable.  Even though they are called runner ducks they don't compete well in a foot race with a dog or a coyote.
Rockwell dry beans with volunteer pumpkin

Blue Lake pole beans with a sunflower and broccoli from Rachel's garden

    Other aspects of our vegetable garden are doing very well.  My dry beans are looking quite lush at the moment and have lots of blossoms. The Rockwell beans look healthier and more vigorous than the Yin Yang beans. The Blue Lake pole beans also seem to be doing well and I am optimistic that I will get a good harvest of green beans to can.  I'm also interested in trying lacto-fermentation with green beans.  I hope Linda is happy with the cute garden in the front. I have made an extra effort to keep that part of the garden well weeded. I have some yellow summer squash and spaghetti squash in the front garden that I purchased as starts. they seem to be doing well.  The slugs decimated all of the squash plants I started from seeds.  The one exception is the volunteer pumpkins that are snaking their way out of my little bean field.  At least I think they are pumpkins. The winter squash I planted from seed did so poorly that I couldn't bring myself to weed out the nice big healthy volunteer winter squash plants.

   I planted red cabbage this year. What I have left seems to be doing okay, but I ended up with a lot less plants than I wanted. Once again the slugs showed no mercy. I wanted to do some red sour kraut
but I don't think we will just have enough for fresh use.  Although my onions survived the transplanting from the site of the access road, it was obviously too late to do that.  I ended up with smallish bulbs that aren't really useable.  In contrast, the little portion of my corn field that survived the road construction seems to be doing well.  I should at least get to see how well the new indian corn variety works out. Hopefully I will get enough seeds to plant next year with some left over to try in corn bread.  I think we also have a nice crop of potatoes in the works. I look forward to digging potatoes with grand kids.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Hay for the Goats

    I picked up a van load of local grass hay for my goats yesterday. It was a very good price in that I was able to arrange a swap with one of my bee store customers. I did a little honeybee consult and helped her look through her beehives. Then I arranged to swap hay for a new honey super and frames for her hive.  In addition to honeybees, grass fed beef, hay, horses, and a midwife business, this lady also has an acre of organic raspberries that she sells  upick and at the local farmers market. I don't know what she does with her surplus raspberries. Raspberries are so perishable that I'm sure there are occasions when she probably has more than she can sell or use herself at the moment.  If anyone is interested in raspberries I will see what I can work out with her.

    The old beater cargo van is so very handy for stuff like this.  I moved four bales over to our little archery range so the backstop is a little higher now. Hopefully that will translate to more time shooting and less time looking for lost arrows.  In the mean time, the other four bales are safe and dry in the van until I get them moved into the goat barn. That was very convenient since it rained last night. The van sometimes serves as a barn annex. I have to admit that I rather like it when the van smells like a hay barn.

   Linda is taking Lance, Luna, and Hannah back south today and is meeting Sarah at Rainbow Falls.  At times like this  I do wish I was retired for real. Jobs can be so inconvenient to our lifestyles.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Rowboat, grand children, and Blackman's Lake

   I spent a lovely day with grandkids today.  I started the day out by making biscuits for breakfast at Hannah's request.  Linda and I then took our little rowboat to Blackman's Lake and paddled around bit with Lance, Luna, and Hannah.  We were a bit heavily laden with two adults and three kids, but we still had a good six inches of clearance to the waterline. Besides, we all had on life jackets and the lake isn't all that big. I'm happy to report that the rowboat is watertight and generally seaworthy or more appropriately, "Lakeworthy".  The boat could use a new gelcoat finish and the wood trim needs replacing.  I spent some time repairing one of the seats prior to our little excursion so its now almost a functional rowboat.  The kids had a great time. They were able to move the boat easily with the paddles. They just had a hard time getting the boat to go in some direction other than a circle. I was reminded of that old expression that someone doesn't have "both oars in the water".
First Mate Linda

Able Seaman Luna working on her paddling skills

Water lilies at Blackman's Lake

Lance going solo "sort of"

Able Seaman Hannah

Lance and Luna at the landing

    The one thing our little boat still lacks is a set of oars and oarlocks. I looked on craigslist today and found what I was looking for but it was in Enumclaw.  The seller wanted $50.00 and the oars looked like they might be intended for a larger vessel than our little rowboat.  One more thing about the boat.  I can still read the original name of the rowboat in spite of the fact that it has been painted over.  I don't care to use the boat's original name, "Dalliance", and am open for suggestions as to a more appropriate name.

    After our return home I went out with the missionaries briefly. Then I babysat grandkids for the rest of the afternoon while Linda delivered Nancy Sweet's suitcase to the airport.  I took advantage of Linda's temporary absence to bake three pies, two cherry and one pumpkin. I used some of the pie cherries that Beth had given me on Monday. The rest of the pie cherries are in the dehydrator. I have to admit that the lower protein flour I've been using for biscuits also makes pretty good pie crust.  The crust is much more tender than it was when I used all-purpose flour in my pie crusts.

      It was obvious that I hadn't eaten dinner before my trip to the library. I came home with four cookbooks.  One on pies, the chicken cookbook, a bread cookbook, and a book full of jam recipes.
Somewhat out of focus, but still a pretty cherry pie

Luna endorsed the pumpkin pie as "very good"

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Chicken and Dumplings

     I killed one of our surplus roosters several weeks ago. The main motivation was to make life easier for the hens. Unfortunately, the two roosters had been working together and the poor hens had little rest. It will be much easier for the hens now that the remaining rooster has to catch them unassisted.  However, I don't believe in letting meat go to waste so I cooked the rooster in the crock pot and made chicken and dumplings.  I took advantage of my Aunt Delores' visit to make her and Mom serve as official chicken and dumplings guinea pigs. They both have had considerable experience with that dish in their younger years.  The main thing I wanted was to tap into their experience and get the conversation started.  Dolores and Mom both had several useful suggestions.  First of all, Dolores suggested that I let the cooked chicken cool so that it is easy to remove all of the fat when it congeals. Otherwise, the dumplings will absorb every bit of the chicken fat as they are cooked on top of the liquid where the fat resides.  Secondly, they told me that I can cook the chicken in a crock pot, but that dumplings have to be cooked at a higher temperature. In other words, my dumpling recipe may be just fine, but my cooking technique was fatally flawed. Their instructions for cooking the dumplings was bring the stew to a boil, drop on the dumplings, cook them for ten minutes covered and then ten minutes uncovered.

     The most important thing to come out of it was a promise from Aunt Dolores that she would send me her chicken and dumpling recipe. I'm planning to feature that in a future blog post after I take out another surplus rooster. In addition to supplying the main ingredient for chicken and dumplings the rooster also provided some rather dashing tail feathers that I stuck in the band of my felt hat for trek. I thought it was a nice look. After a week on trek the feathers do look well worn.
Rooster tail feathers, a little worse for wear

   I spent some time at the library tonight and found a cookbook devoted to chicken recipes. I checked and found they had included a chicken and dumplings recipe.  I will be anxious to try that one out and to later compare it to Dolores' recipe.  I'm thinking the smart money will be on Dolores' recipe.

Monday, July 16, 2012

New Hammock and Kid Archery

Cassie, Luna, Hannah, and Lance try out the new hammock

The view from the new hammock

   My old hammock finally bit the dust this afternoon.  It has been gradually self-destructing over the past few months.  Fortunately I already had a replacement hammock waiting in the wings thanks to a gift last summer from my daughter Rachel.  It was just the right length for the distance between my two big cherry trees and the existing hardware.  I have found it a bit harder to do a graceful exit from the new hammock. My feet just don't quite reach the ground when I try to exit. I'm hoping it will stretch a little with use.  In the meantime I'm okay with less than graceful exits. I find it to be a lot more comfortable than the old one. I think I can take some serious naps in this one.

      I spent some time this afternoon doing archery with the kids. Linda had bought a few replacement straw bales so our little archery range is up and running again. Hannah and Lance both seem to really enjoy shooting the bows.  It was a little difficult at first to get them to hold their arms right such that the bow string wouldn't wack their arms.  They were both doing a pretty good job after several hours at the range. They were actually hitting the center part of the bales most of the time and we weren't spending all of our time  retrieving arrows from wild shots. I'm surprised their little fingers weren't too sore to shoot by then. We ended up with more arrows than we had when we started as I found about six arrows the kids had lost last summer.
Lance Wessel,  archer

Hannah Kang takes aim

Hannah and Lance on the firing line

    I took my orchard ladder over to the Tunnells' home in Monroe so they could pick their pie cherry tree.  While I was there I picked a gallon or so of pie cherries from the roof of their garage.  I told Beth that with my brothers all being ironworkers you weren't allowed to be afraid of heights in my family. She expressed gratitude that James had not chosen to apply that standard to their family. Then I cut off several of the high limbs so they could pick the cherries while standing safely on the ground. The tree is way too tall and much of the more productive limbs are too high to be picked.

    We had a rather sad event when I returned home. One of my bees suffered a fatal accident when Hannah carelessly stepped on it in our backyard. It was a traumatic event for Hannah as well as she happened to be barefoot at the time.  There was considerable weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth while I removed the stinger from Hannah's big toe. I told Hannah about my experience with the copper penny when I was stung close to my eye.  We then taped a copper penny over the sting site. There was no discernible swelling when we removed the penny several hours later. Darn if I have any idea at all as to why that should help but it sure seems to help.

     While we are on the topic of bees, I was able to look at most of my beehives this afternoon.  Most were in pretty good shape, but a few needed another honey super. Its looking like we are having a wonderful blackberry nectar flow. The bees are really packing the honey into the honey supers so I am expecting a very good harvest. I will be surprised if I get less than 500 pounds of honey. I still need to get another super on my Warre hive, but I actually have to make up the frames first. Maybe I can get that done tomorrow.

Duckling, Bee, Fruit, and Vegetable Update

    The animals and the garden seem to have survived my weeklong absence at trek.  I really appreciate Linda taking care of the animals while I was gone.  I realize that is a significant daily chore and I know she had a lot of things on her plate. The ducklings have grown quite large.  Since they were hatched on June 20th they are a little less than four weeks old now.  That is an important milestone for ducklings as four weeks is when their oil glands start to work and they can start to waterproof their own feathers.  Obviously the chicken has been unable to fulfill that mother waterfowl function.  We've been very fortunate to have had relatively dry weather since they were hatched. Once they are capable of waterproofing themselves they can be moved into the duck pen with their real parents, Popeye, Olive Oyle and Sweetpea.  I'm moving the last of the Americauna chickens to the large chicken pen this evening so we'll finally have just ducks in the duck pen and chickens in the chicken pen.

The ducklings are now awkward adolescents

    Linda bought a bale of hay for the goats while I was gone. I thought that was very sweet of her to do.  I'm not sure what she paid for it, but I suspect it was more than the $4.00 per bale I usually pay for local grass hay. I was advised by my goat mentor not to feed really good quality hay to the goats.  The goats do better on the cheap stuff as good hay has too much protein. Now that the weather is dry enough for me to buy local hay I'm going to try and get my little goat barn stocked up for this fall and winter.

A Girl and her Chicken reunited

    The Tunnell children were visiting when I arrived home from Trek.  This allowed Britton to have a joyful reunion with Rose, her pet chicken. Sadly, Rose is a little less inclined to be held as she doesn't experience that on a daily basis while in the "Chicken Protection Program".

    The strawberries peaked while I was gone and we are on the downhill side.  I picked some of my black currants on Saturday afternoon and hope to finish the rest of them on Monday.  Black and red currants are both very high in vitamin C and very nutritous.  Black currants are somewhat of an acquired taste as they have kind of a resinous flavor.  They can be made into a pretty good jam or jelly but I can readily understand why many people don't like them fresh.  I've also had good luck juicing them with my steamer juicer. If it comes out a little strong I can always mix it with another kind of juice.  I have also dried them and put them into my oatmeal. I liked it that way but they still tasted like black currants.  We are picking raspberries now and some of the blueberries have started to ripen.

    As far as tree fruit goes, we had too much rain in June and poor pollination earlier such that the sweet cherry harvest has been minimal so far. All of the Rainier cherries cracked. The Bing and the Lambert trees produced little fruit, most of it cracked and the birds got it all.  I may still get some sweet cherries from my Lapins or Hudson trees if the weather will stay dry.  My little pie cherry trees had some nice sized and pretty fruit but there wasn't much of it.  The trees are fairly small yet so there wasn't enough cherries for a pie between both trees.  However, the plum tree is still looking very good. I expect the Shiro plums to be ripe within another week and there are a lot of good looking Obilnaya and Santa Rosa plums developing on the tree.
Lovely "Surefire" Pie Cherries. If only there were more of them.

    It is my turn to conduct Sacrament meeting in July so it is more difficult to be away on a weekend. I wish I could have spent more time at Sarah's but I always feel that way when I visit with any of my children.  I love doing the bee store but it does seriously cramp my style when it comes to visiting children and grand children. Being retired for real is beginning to sound pretty good. I didn't get to see Rachel at all during my visit and even forgot to leave the jug of honey I had brought down for her. I did manage to bring Luna, Lance, and Hannah back home with me.  We were able to bring them to church with us and we had a lovely campfire Sunday evening.

Lance, Hannah, and Luna roasting marshmallows around the campfire
Hannah Kang with Roasted Marshmallow Perfection


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Handcart Trek 2012

    I just got home Saturday after spending a week with my daughter Sarah and her two oldest daughters at their Stake's handcart trek. It was a wonderful experience in spite of the hot, sweaty, dirty, and tired aspects.  There were a number of things that made a great impression on me.  First and foremost we are serious wimps compared to our pioneer ancestors.  We trekked about 5 miles on most days whereas the Mormon handcart pioneers traveled from 16 to 20 miles on most days.  We had unlimited availability of drinking water and our rations were really more than we needed.  There was no hard tack and thin gruel. I didn't even manage to lose any weight by the end of the week. We even had the gall to complain about the toilet facilities.  The real pioneers had no toilet facilities and took significant casualties during their experience.  The youth did get a good glimpse of the sacrifices made by our pioneer ancestors and gain some appreciation for value of their gifts to us.

    Sarah and I were not assigned to a particular handcart "family" but were part of the activities staff. Consequently I ended up doing some cooking in the staff area and assisted in pulling/pushing one of the staff handcarts.  Sarah had told me that I wouldn't have to pull a handcart, but we would just have to walk along with the handcarts. However, I was quickly shamed into pulling as I watched a member of their Stake Presidency, age 68, pulling a staff handcart that was definitely undermanned.  As I hung out and assisted with camp duties in the staff area I spent a great deal of time talking with President Richardson, President Robinson, members of the Stake Young Women's and Young Men's presidencies, the wonderful people assigned to the medical staff, and others The fact that I was hot, dirty, sweaty, and tired seemed of little consequence.  It was a very uplifting experience to say the least. It just reinforced for me how easy it is to feel happy when you are in the company of really good people. Later, I had the occasion to hang out for an hour or two with a small number of the less positive trek participants.  The contrast was very stark. It was as if their negative attitudes created a little black cloud that hung over the group.

   Sarah and I were specifically tasked with instigating music during the trek.  We fulfilled that in a number of ways.  We distributed almost 100 penny whistles and more than 150 harmonicas to the 250 youth participants.  We gave a 30 minute lesson to get them started on playing a simple hymn. We chose Sweet Hour of Prayer.  I taught harmonica while Sarah taught penny whistle. Amazingly, I  heard a number of kids playing that hymn or other hymns on their harmonicas or penny whistles throughout the remainder of the trek.  The following day we taught the words to several of the hymns in their trek journal/hymnal.  There was also a trek choir which performed on several occasions during the trek.  Other than that we were supposed to try to instigate music as we trekked along.  I didn't have a lot of success getting the youth to sing as they trekked, but I played either the harmonica and penny whistle on various occasions. I could play the harmonica as I walked while the penny whistle was much easier to play when we took rest breaks. The penny whistle requires too much breath control for me to play while I walk.

     I had several touching music experiences during trek.  Once while I played hymns on the penny whistle in the staff area I was joined by a young women who began to sing the melody. A short time later she was joined by her sister who sang alto.  Sarah told me that another young lady joined in too. I ended up going through all of the songs I could play in the little trek hymnal several times. I felt the spirit such that I had difficulty continuing to play. The trek choir performed one evening and did quite well.  I was moved to tears. Sarah was particularly impressed with the choir because their adult leader wasn't able to come on the trek. Some of the youth just stepped up and took charge.

    It gave me great joy to watch my two grand daughters performing ably and with good attitudes through some fairly difficult experiences. I must confess, I would have been very disappointed if either of them had turned out to be a whiner. I was also very happy to watch Sarah serving cheerfully in difficult circumstances.  She chose to take on the role of mother hen to a particularly hapless 12 year old boy. It is an understatement to say he was poorly prepared for the difficulty of the trek experience. Sarah managed to get him to the end of the trail with copious amounts of gentle persuasion and encouragement and the patience of Job. When I saw him on the first day I thought there was no chance at all that he would last through Friday. I was particularly amazed with the young man's change of attitude. He went from being extremely negative to a more positive attitude.  I know that for him this was absolutely a life changing experience.

   I will have to add some photos later as I left Linda's camera at Sarah's house.